Jernade Meade scored his first goal since returning to the club, as Dartford came from behind to earn a hard-fought point against Braintree Town at the Dunmow Group Stadium.
As 754 supporters sat through dropping temperatures, neither side could really light the proverbial fire that this game needed. However, what wasn’t a surprise was how the hosts started the game, especially considering their recent form and the fact that both sides are deep into the promotion play-off places in the National League South table. And, to say that this game was one of two halves would be an understatement to say the least.
The Iron started on the front foot, controlling long periods in the first forty-five. And they forced the first corner of the afternoon after just six minutes, via the lively Aaron Blair.
Yet, despite dominating in terms of possession, the hosts didn’t create an awful lot during the opening exchanges and it would take a little bit of good fortune to help them edge ahead.
Once again, Blair was involved in a good attacking move which saw him capitalise by getting beyond the Dartford defence. Yet his strike somehow managed to squeeze underneath Ben Dudzinski before resting in the bottom corner (17).
The hosts came close again in the 22nd minute when Blair got through again. However, on this occasion Dudzinski rushed out and, even though Blair beat the goalkeeper, he couldn’t keep his effort below the crossbar.
Blair continued to be Braintree’s main focus of attack, and yet another blistering move set him on his way again in the 28th minute, forcing Tom Bonner to make a late challenge which earned him a yellow card from referee Mr Liam Corbett (28).
With the visitors missing first choice strikers Charlie Sheringham (injured) and Alex Wall (suspended), they looked a little light in the final third, but the halftime break did them the world of good.
The pendulum seemed to swing in the opposite direction throughout the second-half, as Alan Dowson’s side grew in confidence and gained more control of proceedings… a fact that improved even more when Keiran Murtagh came on to replace Luke Allen in the 52nd minute.
Pressing forward with more intent saw the Darts rewarded with a handful of set-pieces, the closest of which saw Tom Bonner unable to keep Luke Coulson’s corner down with a trademark header (54).
The Iron weren’t completely done yet either and came close to virtually putting the game out of reach two minutes later. But, former Dartford striker Alfie Pavey’s effort from inside the box clipped the outside of the post before going behind to safety.
What came next in the 63rd minute, however, was arguably the move of the game! The move involved Keiran Murtagh, Luke Coulson, Samir Carruthers, and Maxwell Statham, and it was exquisite. The latter received the ball towards the end of the move, before delivering a delightful low cross into the Braintree box where Jernade Meade met it. And he calmly slotted the ball home to score his first goal since returning to Dartford.
Braintree boss Angelo Harrop responded by throwing on Matt Rush for Aaron Blair (75) and Alfie Matthews for Lamar Reynolds (81). But, the visitors weren’t going to be breached again this afternoon.
In fact, it was the Darts who came closest to stealing all three points via Jack Smith in the 79th minute. Unfortunately, his effort was comfortably caught by Braintree goalkeeper Jack Sims.
The result sees the Darts stretch their unbeaten run to three games while remaining in second place in the National League South table, as the battle for the play-offs heats up.
BRAINTREE TOWN: Jack Sims, Leon Davies, Kyron Farrell, Baris Altintop, John White (c), Kyran Clements, Gene Kennedy, Alfie Payne, Alfie Pavey, Aaron Blair, Lamar Reynolds .
SUBSTITUTES: Chris Regis, Jack Turner, Joe Boachie, Matt Rush, Alfie Matthews.
DARTFORD: Ben Dudzinski, Jordan Wynter, Samir Carruthers, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner (c), Luke Coulson, Luke Allen, Maxwell Statham, Jack Smith, Pierre Fonkeu, Jernade Meade.
SUBSTITUTES: Dan Wilks, Keiran Murtagh, Jamar Loza, Isaac Ogundere, Malachi Napa.
By Chris Palmer